One up, one down – Mclaren rule Abu Dhabi

November 3, 2012 5:25 pm

Formula One is never straightforward; Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel may be the title candidates of the 2012 season but that didn’t stop Lewis Hamilton and others getting in on the action at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 2008 World Champion blitzed the Yas Marina circuit in the desert night to qualify three tenths of a second clear of Red Bull driver Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel slotted his car into 3rd after missing most of the morning practice session with a suspected brake problem but was left worrying after he had to stop his car out on the circuit once qualifying was over, a victim of what seemed to be an engine problem. If that proves to be the case, Vettel may take a penalty that could alter the complexion of the Grand Prix after championship rival Fernando Alonso struggled to 7th place.

Hamilton claimed he was ‘sceptical’ of his chances of pole despite topping the timesheets in two of the three practice session held on Friday and Saturday morning. Such talk proved to be bluff as he stormed round the awe-inspiring spectacle that is the Abu Dhabi circuit. Hamilton set the benchmark in each of the three qualifying segments before laying down an early marker that remained unbeaten in the final shootout. Webber surprisingly came closest to beating Hamilton while Vettel’s woes were outlined above.

Lewis Hamilton was in a class of one

A surprising package seized 4th on the grid in the shape of the flying Pastor Maldonado, the hard-fighting Venezuelan proving his speed once again in his Williams Renault machine. Kimi Raikkonen sealed a solid 5th ahead of Jenson Button who struggled relative to his teammate, inexplicably losing speed compared to the practice sessions. Behind Alonso in 8th were Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, Rosberg overcoming the performance deficit in his Mercedes car that has so lacked speed in recent races.

Third Brit Paul Di Resta lined up 13th, with Mclaren-bound Sergio Perez between him and his teammate Nico Hulkenberg in 11th, while Michael Schumacher blamed a ‘misunderstanding’ for his shambolic run to 14th place. Bruno Senna talked of his expectations before qualifying, but 15th place was probably not quite what he had imagined, likewise Kamui Kobayashi who did his chances of a 2013 race-seat no favours by lining up 16th. Toro Rosso experienced a difficult day after the pace they had shown in Japan and Korea melted away, qualifying only ahead of the ‘new’ teams. Of these six drivers, Charles Pic put in an excellent effort as he outpaced Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov.

2012 is proving to be an exceptional year of Formula One racing; those record seven different winners of the first seven races, young guns battling hard with the old hands, familiar faces in unfamiliar positions, and to round it off an enticing showdown between the two greatest drivers currently in the sport.

Abu Dhabi could be a microcosm of the year so far – after all, the ingredients have fallen into place perfectly. Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Raikkonen, Button, Alonso…all the major players are there, ready for those five lights to go out above the grid tomorrow afternoon. Then they’ll be off, 24 finely-balanced supercars, screaming down toward the first corner among the sands of the night-time desert.

It’s certainly a spectacle. Make sure you don’t miss it.

Anthony French

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